Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A post about compost

A while back (last fall? Christmas? this past spring?) we started composting. It wasn't too hard to convince hubby to go along, since he's already been on many crazy/frugal/tree-hugging adventures with me. (Now, there's a post worth writing!)

I started composting because I hate making trash. I genuinely hate to throw things away. We started recycling our plastics, glass, and paper. We started to consider a garden. Composting seemed like a natural step to make. 

When I first explored the idea with hubby, I was a bit intimidated by the whole process. Carbons? Nitrogens? Won't it stink? Will the dog try to eat it? But honestly, it's so easy! I have a small crock on my kitchen counter, with a lid that contains a filter: 

Odd bits of vegetable and fruit scraps go in there. Apple cores, banana peels, watermelon rind, coffee grounds - if it came from a plant (and hasn't been cooked in an oil or fat), then we throw it in the compost container. When the container is full, it gets dumped on the outside compost pile. 

Our outside piles are a mixture of what was in the kitchen bin, grass clippings, and leaves from last fall. (Whenever the boys find a worm, they throw it in the pile, too. Worms like to eat compost.) So all that stuff, veggies and grass and fruit and coffee grounds and leaves (and the occasional well-rinsed egg shell) just get put in a pile to rot. 

Now you'd think that such a pile would stink, right? It doesn't! Amazingly enough, it just smells like dirt. We have two piles right now, side by side. One is a pile that is just decomposing, and doing nothing else. The other pile is the pile we add to on a regular basis. When our decomposing pile is nothin' but dirt, we'll throw it on the garden, and the "adding pile" will become the decomposing pile.  We'll start a new adding pile in place of the decomposing pile that just became part of the garden. 

There are a couple of good sources to find out about composting. I really liked this site that talks about what you can put in your pile. I also like the book Let It Rot. The author gets into the nitty gritty of chemistry of composting - carbon and nitrogen, browns and greens, starters and all that good (sometime unnecessary and complicated) stuff. 

What do we do to our compost pile? Well, we add the ingredients listed above. We avoid any oils or fats in the pile (veggies cooked in butter are out, as is meat). We try to keep it moist, when we remember that it hasn't rained in a while (though I'm too cheap to water our compost often. I mean, really, what's the worst thing that's going to happen if I forget to water? Um, nothing is going to happen - really. It'll just stop decomposing for a while.) And we turn the compost every few days, which means that someone goes out there with a garden hoe and stirs the pile up. 

And no, the dog never bothers the compost. Like I said, it smells like dirt, not food. 

I'll keep adding to it this winter, though I probably won't stir it, since it's darn cold here in winter. But I'm sure that the freezing/thawing processes that happen in early spring will help decay. Whoo-hoo! 

So what does this save me? Well, I get great dirt for free. I buy fewer trash bags. And I'm not adding to the landfills. Yay for me! 

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